Locals to meet in prelim

Tournaments | South’s trip to Merrimack highlights busy Tuesday for D-I boys.

Staff file photo by TOM KING Ian Cummings (20) has been a steady player for Merrimack all season long. The Tomahawks host Nashua South in Tuesday's Divsion I prelims.

The final pieces to the local high school tournament puzzle have been added as the Division I and II boys basketball tournament gets underway Tuesday and Wednesday.

Six area teams are involved in preliminary-round games this week, while four other locals will compete in their respective tournament

semifinals in girls basketball and boys hockey, as well.

Tuesday is the busiest day. There are three Division I preliminary round boys hoop games set for 7 p.m.: No. 11 Nashua South (8-10) at No. 6 Merrimack (12-6), No. 9 Bishop Guertin (8-10) at No. 8 Londonderry (10-8) and No. 13 Alvirne (7-11) at No. 5 Winnacunnet (14-4).

Tenth-seeded Manchester Memorial (8-10) at No. 7 Nashua North (11-7) is set for 6:30 p.m.

Also on Tuesday night, the sixth-seeded Hollis Brookline girls (15-5) will face No. 2 Portsmouth (18-1) at 6 p.m. at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester in the

Division II semifinals. The Cavaliers handed the Clippers their lone regular-season loss in a 53-31 drubbing on Jan. 4.

On Wednesday, the No. 4 Hollis Brookline boys basketball team (13-5) will host No. 13 Merrimack Valley (8-10) in the Divsion II preliminary round, as No. 2 Milford has a bye and will host a quarterfinal Saturday at 7 p.m. Also on Wednesday, the Bishop Guertin boys hockey team, seeded fifth at 12-5-2, will square off versus rival and top-ranked Bedford (17-1-1) at 7:30 p.m. at Manchester’s JFK Coliseum.

Thursday gives the area an all-local girls basketball Division I semifinal at SNHU as No. 1 Bishop Guertin (17-1) faces No. 4 Alvirne (17-2) at 8 p.m.

The unknowns are Friday and Saturday, with the Division I boys hoop quarterfinals and Divsion II girls hoop finals taking place on Friday; the boys hockey as well as the Division I girls basketball finals and Division II boys hoop quarterfinals are on the docket for Saturday.

Here’s a look:

Boys basketball

In Division I, Merrimack won three of its last four – losing only by a point to Keene – and the Tomahawks own a 60-55 overtime win over Nashua South. In that game, both team’s respective scorers came through, Ian Cummings with 19 for the Tomahawks and Kevin Genao with 24 for the Panthers.

“I think South is a very dangerous team, they’ve got all the ingredients and they’re well coached,” Merrimack coach Tim Goodridge, who praised the improved play lately of senior guard Joe DeGregorio, said. “I think it’s going to be a tough matchup.”

The winner visits No. 3 Bedford on Friday.

North has enjoyed a great turnaround. The Titans started off 1-5 and led by Alonzo Linton, Casey Lane & Co. and have won eight of their last nine since losing to the Crusaders, 78-68, back on Jan. 31. Should the Titans win Tuesday, North will travel to Rochester Friday to face No. 2 Spaulding in the quarters.

Bishop Guertin faced Londonderry back on Jan. 6 and fell 57-49 at the Colligadome. The Lancers aren’t invincible at home, going 5-3 (including losses to North and South), and Guertin has at least survived on the road (4-5).

The Broncos won five of their first six and then struggled thereafter, going 2-10 the rest of the way. But Alvirne played the Warriors close at home just last week, bowing 55-52, and their biggest win of the year was a 66-51 win over Pinkerton back on Jan. 13, giving them the tiebreaker to get the last tourney spot.

The Division I favorite, of course, is unbeaten Portsmouth (18-0).

“Portsmouth is the team to beat,” Goodridge said. “But Bedford has four or five kids who can do it. And North is on fire. I wouldn’t be surprised to see (the Titans) in the finals.”

In Division II, the Hollis Brookline boys are hoping to get one of their better players, guard Steve Giaconia (injured foot) back for Wednesday. The Cavs won four straight before losing their season finale to Milford last Thursday, but they did not face Merrimack Valley during the regular season.

“You’ve got to be healthy,” Cavs coach Mike Soucy said after the Milford game. “Hopefully, (Giaconia) should be ready for Wednesday. We were afraid (his foot) was fractured, but it’s not. It should be fun.”

The Cavs would earn another home game Saturday if they advance.

The No. 2 Spartans’ only loss this season was at No. 1 Lebanon. Milford on Saturday hosts the winner of the prelim between No. 10 Bishop Brady (9-9) and No. 7 John Stark (10-8). They’ve beaten both; John Stark 59-44 at home back on Dec. 20 and Brady on the road, 57-48, on Feb. 6.

“It’s wide open,” Milford coach Dan Murray said, his team’s core group led by Shane Winnett and Ryan Banuskevich. “We can play with (Lebanon). We had leads (versus the Raiders), we shot ourselves (in the foot). We’d turn it over and they’d score five. I feel better, but it’s not like we’re dominant.”

Girls basketball

The Cavaliers are the surprise team of the Division II tournament to some extent, the only non top-four seed in the semis. But they’ve gotten steady play from their two key seniors – leading scorer Cassandra Stapelfeld and Kenzie Day – plus sophomores Brodie Kelley and 6-foot-1 Elizabeth Atkinson. Remember, they are the only team to beat Portsmouth in the regular season, and did so decisively on the road, 53-31, back on Jan. 4. Stapelfeld scored 21 in that one while Atkinson had 16 points and seven boards.

The Clippers are led by senior 1,000-point scorer Libby Underwood, who is bound for William & Mary next year.

No one is happier that the Cavs reached the semis than HB coach Bob Murphy.

“My goal was to try to get them to the semis,” Murphy said. “It’s a real tournament atmosphere, college gym, four teams that night. It’s exciting. I wanted to get these kids a chance to see what that excitement is like.”

In Division I, the Cardinals of Bishop Guertin know what it’s like, as they’re the defending champions. But head coach Brad Kreick knows the Broncos will be a very tough semifinal opponent, despite the fact Guertin handled them with ease, 61-27, back on Feb. 3. Guertin in that game forced 17 first-half turnovers and went on a 15-0 run to take control.

“The thing that defines us the better part of two years is it starts defensively for us,” Kreick said. “That’s the key for us. … Alvirne is a very good basketball team. Deep, talented, some seniors that have been around before. Huge test for us.”

Meghan Cramb, Caroline Hoffer and freshman Erin Carney each had 10 in BG’s win over the Broncos.

In that game, Alvirne’s big three of Katie Bellomo, Amanda Wetmore and Marissa Sweeney were stifled, but don’t expect that to be the case on Thursday.

The winner gets either No. 2 Pinkerton or No. 3 Bedford in the finals on Saturday.

Boys hockey

Ah, Bishop Guertin and Bedford, they seem to go together in all kinds of weather. Two years ago the Cards escaped with a triple overtime win over the Bulldogs in the semis, en route to the Division I title. Last year, Bedford handled BG in the finals, 4-3. And this year, just before Christmas, the teams played to a 3-3 overtime tie.

“We’re looking forward to it,” Guertin coach Gary Bishop said. “They’ve got a really good offensive team, and we’ve got a really good defensive team. If we can stay out of the penalty box, we can play with anybody 5-on-5.”

And in that 3-3 game, ironically, the Cards gave up two shorthanded goals, both by Griffin Gagne, who had a hat trick for the Bulldogs. His other was on the power play. Cards goalie Jacob Perrin had to be superb as he stopped 34 shots.

But right now the Cards are playing perhaps their best hockey, especially junior forward Ben Peterson, who had a hat trick in the quarterfinal win over Hanover.

“Peterson’s playing well, so is (senior Jordan) Caito, and Doug Barker has come on, and we’re playing five defensemen.” Bishop said. “Hanover was a great three periods, a great win. But Bedford, they do a lot of movement, they tend to get free of you. We can’t let that happen.”

The winner gets either No. 2 Concord or No. 3 Salem in the finals.

“You’ve got four really good teams still playing,” Bishop said.